Adventures in Grocery Shopping

This afternoon around 1 p.m., I decided to head out to the grocery store to pick up the one or two small ingredients I needed for dinner tonight. I thought since I needed so little, I’d just head to the little grocers down the street from us. Then I got there. There was a line of high school students out the door. I forgot that they all converge on the various grocery stores at that time of day.

There was no way I was going to deal with that crowd just for a few tiny items, so I turned around and debated heading home and waiting, or just going ahead to one of the regular grocery stores since I was already out. I decided on the latter, and headed to Plus on Voorstraat. The store has undergone a makeover and reopened recently. I hadn’t been in since the renovation, but had seen a glimpse of the new inside yesterday. As I approached, I started to wonder if it was actually open, since there was a large dumpster standing where the entrance used to be. Fortunately, I saw a couple of students approach the same spot and then turn around and say something about the new entrance. Aha! I guess students are useful for some things. I looked a bit further down the street and there it was, the grand new door!

As soon as I walked in, I could tell they’d done quite a bit of work. It was all a bit fancier — certainly fancier than it had been in the past — and they even had a section that seemed to offer take-away food of some sort, staffed by actual people! What used to be the liquor store section has been turned into a small dining area. The lighting is much more ambient, otherwise known as not so glaringly fluorescent. The shelves are all a bit nicer and everything looks a bit less dusty than it did in the past.

That particular branch of Plus has always been a bit hit-or-miss with me. On one hand, they do sometimes have a few of the more interesting ingredients, including dried lentils and premade pizza crusts, not to mention a decent selection of different types of nuts. On the other hand, there was sometimes an odd smell inside, and stuff really was kind of dusty. The new design of the store definitely makes it more appealing to me and in some ways, it seems more like the grocery stores I was used to in the US, with a wider selection of both food items as well as kitchen items. They now have some simple pots and pans, even! They also have a few small sewing items, as well as some simple tools and things for your bike. It’s not the kind of stuff you necessarily need all the time, but I always appreciated being able to get some of these smaller items as I was doing my normal grocery shopping, rather than having to go to a different store. [To be fair, if you go to the Albert Heijn XL stores, they have all of this kind of stuff and more, but when you live in the city center, you don’t go all the way out to AH XL very often. It’s nice having this kind of stuff local.]

As in the past, Plus also has a few items that some expats may be happy to find. I saw two types of marshmallow fluff, as well as regular marshmallows (white and colors), along with yellow mustard, boxed mac and cheese, peanut butter, and Duncan Hines cake mix. Sadly, no ranch dressing, but they did have some Reece’s Peanut Butter cups and I treated myself to one, since that’s what we usually bought in the US to give out on Halloween. It may be a day late, but it’s still going to be enjoyed! They also stock multiple types of maple syrup, although I noticed the ones in the organic section all cost around €7,75 a bottle (I think that’s around US$10). I think some of the other “foreign” foods were also still pricier than I remember them ever being when they were “domestic” foods. It’s a good thing the Reece’s were the only thing I really wanted or am likely to buy often. Most of the other stuff on offer is stuff that I didn’t buy very often in the US, either.

I’m not sure about their new check-out counters; it seems a bit cramped and awkward now that there’s no more conveyor belt and only one small counter spot for two check-outs. Otherwise, I’m kind of digging the new Plus. I might have to give them another try when I’m doing regular shopping and see how their selection stands up.

[I’m pretty sure this post is one of the more banal ones I’ve ever written, but for fellow expats and those living near enough to Voorstraat to do some shopping, it might be of some use or interest. Now excuse me while I go have a peanut butter cup with my afternoon coffee.]

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8 thoughts on “Adventures in Grocery Shopping

  1. Yum! I am not a native to the Reece’s world but I know how lekker they are!

    It is always nice to hear about the gradually developing supermarket world of the NL. We have any Plus supermarkets round here that I’m aware of unfortunately. Don’t you find that it’s strange that supermarket brands here seem to be area specific, certain towns/cities have their own monopoly of supermarket brands that dominate that specific area.

    If you go out into the country side to small town or villages you’ll most likely not be able to find an Albert Heijn or Jumbo but numerous Spar’s, Super De Boer’s and other names (that I can’t think of right now)

    Happy Reece time!! yumm!

    • I used to love going grocery shopping, just because there was such a wide variety of ingredients from multiple cultures, so it wasn’t a struggle to find some of the slightly more unusual ingredients, and to find them all in one place. Grocery stores here in the city center — ours seem to cater more to students, too — don’t have the same kind of selection, so it’s one of the few things I really miss. I’m gradually finding alternatives or other places to shop, but I do miss having everything under one roof.

      It definitely is interesting seeing how many grocery store chains there can be in one relatively small country. We had region-specific ones in the US sometimes, but that’s a much bigger country! I do like the one Super de Boer that’s near us. They have a few things on offer that I can’t find in Albert Heijn or Plus. All three stores are fairly close, so I tend to base my choice of which to go to based on which items I need that day.

  2. It’s so funny that you mentioned the dust. I can’t remember for sure which store I was in or if it was a Plus or not but I have encountered the dusty grocery store before. It was quite off putting to see most the food items covered in dust. I’m glad I’m not the only one who has encountered it.

  3. Thanks for this!! lol I had never in 9 years ever stepped foot in that plus because it looked so sketchy 🙂 I’ll have to check it out.

    On an aside- would you be interested in a walk this week? Morning- thursday? The path along the water from our hood to town?

    Let me know!

    • G warned me about it when we moved, but I thought, “oh, it can’t be that bad.” I should have listened to him. 😉 It’s definitely much nicer now.

      I’d definitely be interested in the walk. Will e-mail you to sort it all out.

  4. The dust (never encountered that myself though) and the basic lighting, packaging, shelving etc. may be down to what type of store you went to. You see, Albert Heijn generally is the more “upmarket” kind of supermarket (more brand names on stock, like Coca Cola etc., fancier advertising, shelves, music, and generally a bit more classy), while chains like Lidl or Aldi are considered the cheaper, more downmarket chains. They often keep items in boxes, not even putting them out on shelves, and sell their own, cheaper brands of things like coke, crisps, peanut butter and food items like that. You get what you pay for, so the general ambiance of these stores is less fancy then Albert Heijn. C1000, Plus, and Jumbo all used to be a little more on the downmarket, cheaper side, but some of them seem to “move up” slowly and starting to cater for more upmarket type clients now. Better lighting, less dust 🙂

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